The key thing to know about Pixar's "Motorama" car show is that it predates the movie Cars. That makes sense, if you think about it. Only a genuinely car-addled company would even make movies like Cars in the first place. It's an employees-only affair, but I managed to score an invite so I could show you the cars that influenced the people who made Cars.
Pixar does the Motorama every year, and at its core it's still just a way for employees to show off their awesome cars.
And boy do their employees have some awesome cars. Pixar employees are true gearheads, as I realized right in the parking lot before I even made it into the actual show. You enter the place through these imposing gates, and then turn right into a large parking lot, the edges of which were full of interesting iron.
Some of it was what you'd expect from a Northern Cali parking lot, like this lovely old Microbus camper, but there were some great unexpected treats as well.
Treats like this perfectly-patina'd Ford Model A, bought by a Pixar employee right out of a barn in, I think, Minnesota or something. Maybe Montana? I wasn't paying enough attention because I was too amazed at how original and, well, operable this old survivor was. There was a new fuel pump and a few other odds and ends in the engine, gleaming black and silver, bolted to a sea of rust-colored piping, It was incredible to see this thing puttering along.
There were also perfect mixes of the expected and the unusal: here we have another Pixar employee with a lovingly-restored Microbus camper (in this case a '67, and the one the owner grew up with as a kid) but right next to it the owner and another Pixarino (Pixaroid? Pixarnian?) were charging up some restored Tomorrowland cars.
These cars were used in Disney's Tomorrowland racetrack up until the 80s (see below there), and were originally powered by single-cylinder gas motors. They're now converted to electric power and used for getting around the Pixar campus, and just for fun.
They're pretty incredible looking, and they were silently hooning about the lush Pixar lawns throughout the Motorama event. They remind me of a cross between an X/19 and a Sting Ray, and that's a pretty great combination.
Also in the parking lot was a group not technically affiliated with Pixar, but they were invited to come out because they've recreated the Toyota (um, technically a 1978 Gyoza) pickup that's the Pizza Planet truck that shows up in every Pixar movie, somewhere. Well, except for The Incredibles.
While I was waiting for the event to officially start, I poked around a bit and, of course, found I was surrounded with some really remarkable Pixar concept art and little side projects related to their properties.
Like this lovely concept sketch of the double-decker bus from Cars 2
... and this Mater sculpture, which I believe was 3D printed from the actual data that is actually Mater.
The show itself is an interesting mix of employee cars and cars from museums (and other collections, like Jay Leno's) and manufacturers. A glimpse down the employee's row shows some of the great variety: a Porsche 914, Citröen 2CV, Volvo P1800, and more.
I especially liked that 2CV, and spent a while with the owner as the show ended helping him get it started. Had air, fuel, but no spark until a broken wire connection was found. I had the imprint of that little carb's intake on my palm for days afterwards from trying to choke the thing to get it running.
There was plenty of high-end new car meat to drool over as well: Tesla brought a Model S and the Model X prototype, there were Maseratis and Audis and Porsches and Caddys and Jags. Pixar's doing quite well, and that's not lost on these companies.
Yep, that's a giant Luxo Jr. desk lamp there, throwing some shade (ironically) on a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and that's a Cadillac ELR there as well.
That Ferrari looks pretty good next to a giant rubber ball. They should sell those as garage/driveway accessories.
John Lasseter, Pixar's Chief Creative Officer, also has a winery, and seems to have used that as an excuse to get some really kick-ass wine-delivery trucks. This woody Model A is absolutely perfect in every detail, and forms a great other end of the Model A spectrum when compared to the barn-find one from the parking lot.
Nissan had a surprisingly strong showing at Motorama, with a GT-R and a pair of Jukes, one of which was the gloriously batshit Juke R model. Having a Juke R around must make some Pixar employees at least consider putting in a little dragstrip for next year.
The Petersen trotted out some crown jewels for the show, including the stunning and otherworldly round-door Rolls-Royce and the gut-tighteningly beautiful Jaguar D-type.
The 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Aerodynamic Coupe is something you just can't do justice to in pictures. Its dimensions are so counter to what we're used to, a bizarre combination of vast and cramped, a weird marriage of opulent luxury and streamliner science. It feels like something that fell out of a wormhole to an alternate universe, one where zeppelin travel is the norm and we all still never leave the house without just the right hat.
Good old Jay Leno has been showing cars here for a few years, and I was told by his main car guy that he likes to pick unusual ones for the Pixar show. This year was no exception, a lovely Soviet-era Volga.
I noticed a detail in the Volga this time that I found absolutely delightful — look at this incredible instrument binnacle that's made of blue plexiglass. It's open on both sides, so light streams into it and the instruments themselves seem to be floating in some sort of azure sea. It's a pretty magical way to find out how slow the car is.
I really love that Pixar does this every year they can, not for some publicity or to prove something, but just because they love it. They're a company of gearheads and that's something they really delight in.
(Some photos courtesy Pixar)